Nov 25, 2011 7:39pm
Fugazi Rises Again, in Online Archive (Non-Dead, obviously, but music-archive-related)
Terrific news about one of my other favorite, defunct, but fastidiously well-recorded bands...
FWIW, there are also a few of their shows uploaded here:http://www.archive.org/details/Fugazi
Fugazi Rises Again, in Online Archivehttp://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/26/arts/music/fugazi-live-series-a-post-punk-bands-archive-of-shows.html
Fugazi, the single-mindedly independent post-punk band from Washington, was famous for how it operated in concert. From its first shows in 1987 until it went on indefinite hiatus 15 years later, the group kept ticket prices low — $5 or so — and, to the relief of some fans and the annoyance of others, often paused when things got too wild in the mosh pit.
Guy Picciotto, one of Fugazi’s two singer-guitarists during the band’s touring days, before it went on hiatus in 2002.
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Less known was that the band fastidiously recorded almost every concert. After letting audio tapes for more than 800 shows languish in a closet for years, Fugazi has begun putting them all on its Web site, with the first batch of 130 shows going up next Thursday.
In keeping with its commercial principles of low prices and trust in fans, the shows’ suggested price is $5 each, with a sliding scale of $1 to $100, for the cheap or the philanthropic.
As a career-spanning archival project, the Fugazi Live Series has few equals, putting the band in the unlikely company of acts like the Grateful Dead and Phish. And for Dischord, Fugazi’s self-run label, it has taken more than two years and tens of thousands of dollars, said Ian MacKaye, one of Fugazi’s two singer-guitarists and a co-founder of Dischord.
But to hear the band members tell it, they never had much of a purpose for recording the shows in the first place, and hardly listened to them at the time.
“I’d say it was for posterity, but to what end, we had no idea,” Mr. MacKaye said in an interview this week. “As with a lot of collections, once we had a couple hundred tapes, we just continued to amass them. Why stop? We’d already gotten this far.”
Fugazi, whose music drew on the scraping force of punk and the rhythmic undercurrents of reggae, had been prodded to record the tapes by one of its sound men, Joey Picuri. The group never used a set list and sometimes went on improvisatory tangents, so the tapes were partly meant to preserve spontaneous moments that might otherwise be forgotten, said Guy Picciotto, Fugazi’s other leader.
“When we played, we wanted it to be like a free fall,” Mr. Picciotto said.
Mr. Picuri has a more prosaic memory of the project’s origins. “I was working with a band that was able to afford the price of a cassette for every show,” he said with a laugh.
The recordings capture everything that happened onstage until the tapes stopped rolling, including stage banter, sparkling or dull, and performances, glorious or flubbed. For preservation’s sake, the band did not edit out anything.
“We liked this idea of, ‘Let’s just let it be everything,’ “ Mr. Picciotto said. “There doesn’t have to be the idea that this is the great, golden document. It’s all there, and it’s not cleaned up. You get what you get.”
The sound quality also varies, and taken as a whole, the project also tells a story about musical technology from the 1980s into the 2000s. The earliest recordings were made on cassettes, then came digital DAT tapes, then CD-R’s and a few hard drives. Sorting through it involved not only the process of formatting and mastering the audio but also even more tedious chores like scouring hours of onstage banter to identify unlabeled tapes.
“I got sleuthy about it,” Mr. MacKaye said. “I’d listen to the accent of someone in the crowd and go, ‘O.K., that was in Italy.’ “
Megafans will be able to gorge on hundreds of recordings of Fugazi classics like “Two Beats Off” and “Waiting Room.” For more casual followers — or anyone daunted by the prospect of sorting through 800 set lists — the Web site will also include a crowd-sourced rating system that should allow the cream to rise to the top.
Also included: fliers, tickets and photographs, meticulously collected and cataloged alongside the recordings. The band is encouraging fans to submit additional ephemera and to help fill in gaps of unrecorded shows.
For most bands this kind of exhaustive self-chronicling would be out of the ordinary. But as fans of Fugazi and Dischord know, the band and its label have long seen it as something of a mission to document their own work and the larger Washington underground scene carefully.
“Most labels put out records to get a band known,” Mr. MacKaye said. “The idea of Dischord was to document something that already had energy. In the beginning we were interested in documenting the music offerings of our scene, and it just kept going.”